by Anders Hartmann, BV volunteer, Belize
After 1 week at Bacalar Chico Dive Camp (BCDC) we have now learned the routines and the focus has moved towards surveys and passing the fish and benthic tests, both on computer and in water. The weather is as tropical as you can get, the water temperature is never below 27°Celsius and the sun is shining all day. Unfortunately, there is a persistent breeze which makes it hard for us to get out on the forereef where all the deeper dives and surveys take place. This causes us to focus our dives on the back reef where we quickly manage to finish the surveys and data collection needed. Also a lot of the dive training, such as Dive Master, Rescue diver and Advanced Open Water, is taking up our time. There is never a problem in filling the day, however on the days where we have free time we entertain ourselves with volleyball, yoga, swims, workouts, book reading, card games and whatever else we feel like doing.
The animal life in BCDC is amazing. For a pale, isolated Norwegian like myself it is strange to realise that it has become normal to see the camp iguanas tanning in the sun, sting rays and barracudas in the water, pelicans on the pier and every now and then we even got to see a manatee or two. The less frequent sightings include turtles and nurse sharks. During one of our back reef dives we were lucky enough to swim with dolphins while they were playing in the water. A truly amazing experience to hear their sonar while they all cuddled with each other in a big ball.
Every week some of us go to San Pedro, which is one hour away by boat from BCDC. This is to restock on food and other necessary material, but also to allow volunteers and staff to renew their visas, eat burgers, ice cream and update their Facebook account. For some volunteers, the journey can cause some mixed feelings, not because of a lack of burgers or ice cream but because of the preceding party the previous evening! Party night is for many the weekly highlight; Coconuts with a bit of fire water within, talking at the end of the pier, volleyball games and hammock time is something that will stick with me for forever.
A couple of times we have taken the boat into the mangroves to do some exploring and research. To slowly drift down the very narrow tunnels in the mangroves looking at fish, listening to the birds, smelling the sumps and seeing beams of sunlight coming through the leaves is truly a magnificent, tropical experience.
Though the wind has made it a bit more challenging for us to follow our survey schedule, we are all having a great time. The volunteers and staff get on very well together and we are living the good life in a relaxed but vibrant atmosphere.